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11 N.J.A.R. 520

Tompkins, Sharon v. Hamilton, Board of Education of the Township of
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Citation: 11 N.J.A.R. 520
Decision Date: 1986
Synopsis: Petitioner sought payment of sick leave pursuant to N.J.$.A. 18A:30-2.1 for an allegedly work-connected disability. Respondent board of education argued that the issue of causal connection between employment and injury must be made by the Division of Workers' Compensation before the Commission of Education can entertain an application for sick leave. The matter was transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing. After a prehearing conference, respondent filed a motion for partial summary decision on the jurisdictional issue. The administrative law judge assigned to the case concluded that the Commissioner of Education has authority to consider and grant payment of sick leave under education law without awaiting any action by the Division of Workers' Compensation. However, the decision of the Commissioner would not be binding upon the Division. Respondent's motion for partial summary decision was dismissed. The judge's order dismissing the motion was referred to the Commissioner of Education as an initial decision. Upon review, this decision was adopted by the Commissioner. The State Board of Education reversed. When a claim under N.J.$.A. 18A:30-2.1 is subject to the Workers' Compensation Act and the question of whether the injury arose out of and in the course of employment is in dispute, determination of whether to award benefits under Chapter 18A should be deferred by the Commissioner of Educa- tion until a determination is made by the Division of Workers' Com- pensation. The Commissioner of Education has jurisdiction over all State of New Jersey 521 disputes arising under the school laws. However, in this case the petitioner also seeks benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act. The Division of Workers' Compensation has exclusive original jurisdiction under the workers' compensation statutes. Under those circumstances, the Commissioner should abstain from considering petitioner's claim until a determination on the causal connection issue is made by the Division. The question of whether an injury arose out of and in the course of employment is controlled by the standards established under the Workers' Compensation Act. Where that ques- tion is in dispute and a claim has been made under the Workers' Compensation Act, the Department of Education should defer to the Division of Workers' Compensation, which has the greatest expertise in resolving the question. The matter was remanded to the Commissioner of Education. Barbara E. Riefberg, Esq., for petitioner (Selikoff & Cohen, attorneys) Louis C. Rosen, Esq., for respondent (Aron, Salsberg & Rosen, at- torneys)
Statute(s) Cited: 34:15-48 34:15-49